Why now is the perfect time to go 12-speed

Usually in cycling when something big changes it costs you a lot of money to be an early adopter. That’s just how things work. In fact it’s not just cycling. You want the latest iPhone? That’ll be cash money, please. How about the new Playstation? You better have deep pockets. 

But that isn’t always the case. Relatively speaking, 12-speed is a pretty new thing but Shimano have already trickled it down all the way to their Deore groupset meaning if you want to go 12-speed we’re talking a few hundred pounds rather than over a grand and even less if you just upgrade the shifting without buying new brakes, too. 

12 speeds and a bigger cassette

On an MTB where you’re almost certainly running a 1X drivetrain, adding an extra sprocket to the cassette makes a more noticeable difference than it would on, say, a 2X road drivetrain where you already have 22 different gear iterations to choose from. 

Sure, in itself another middle-of-the-range sprocket wouldn’t necessarily be something to get excited about but with 12-speed has come the advent of the genuinely massive cassette, the 10-51. Previously, Shimano’s MTB cassettes topped out at 11-46, so that big sprocket really is a much bigger sprocket than ever before. 


This is the first time that Shimano has supported 1X at Deore level. That means you can buy a native 1X drivetrain for cheaper than ever before, rather than trying to bodge together something that’ll ‘get the job done’ from odd parts. 

It also means that if you want to go 1X it just became more affordable, which is a great thing. Plus there are crankset options for three different chainlines (142/148/157) so you can run it pretty much no matter what frame you currently have. 


Hyperglide+ is a smart system that guides the chain when you shift up and down the cassette from one gear to the next. What that means in real world terms is that shifting is smoother, and that’s especially important when you’re shifting under power. 

The way they’ve done that is extending the chain’s inner plate to improve the connection between the chain and cassette teeth. By improving and enlarging that contact area, it minimises chain vibration and therefore improves chain engagement, which ultimately ends up in better shifting than ever before. 


Changing the freehub design is a pretty radical thing to do and yes, it means that you’ll need a rear wheel with a microspllne freehub to run a 12-speed groupset (although if you’re running DT Swiss wheels all you need to do is switch the freehub body and you’re good to go).

But Microspline is what allows Shimano to use 10t as the smallest sprocket on the new cassettes, increasing gear range even further. It’s a pretty literal name, too, because what they’ve done is make the splines on the cassette smaller and more numerous and smaller splines equals Microspline, get it?

4-pot brakes

Yep, we get it. Brakes can’t be 12-speed. But it is worth mentioning that along with all the other impressive tech here, 4-piston brakes have come to the Deore level for the first time, too, and use Servo-Wave, a bit of tech that removes the dead stroke when you pull the brake lever. 

Essentially, Servo-Wave means that when you pull the brake lever the pads move together quickly, and that speed decreases the further the lever is pulled. So your pads will contact the rotor with less pull at the lever, meaning very little wasted movement.